Updated: Dec 31, 2020
(Photo by Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has received a lot of criticism from fans and the media of late for the offense not producing. Prior to Sunday's 28-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers scored fewer than 20 points in four straight games. The offense also has gone three-and-out on their first possession in five straight games and hasn't scored a single offensive point in the first quarter in six consecutive games. For the slow starts and the offense being in a rut, many have been pointing the finger at Fichtner.
On Monday, Michael Silver of the NFL Network reported that JuJu Smith-Schuster said the Colts' defensive players were calling out their plays pre-snap, giving a lot of people the impression that Fichtner's play calls were incredibly predictable.
Mike Tomlin yesterday during his weekly press conference said they were calling out the Colts plays as well, and that due to most stadiums not having fans in the stands because of COVID-19 restrictions, it makes things more apparent when it comes to communication.
“I saw that (Fichtner) was taking a little bit (of criticism), and he shouldn’t be,” Ben Roethlisberger said during a Zoom interview with the media on Wednesday. “The players (should). He calls the plays; we have to execute them.”
Both Smith-Schuster and Eric Ebron also stated that Roethlisberger was calling the plays in the second half when they scored 21 unanswered points. Roethlisberger was 23 of 29 (79.3%) for 244 yards and threw three touchdowns in the second half to lead the Steelers to a 28-24 win over the Colts after facing a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.
Along with the three touchdowns passes, all of which occurred in the second half, Roethlisberger finished the game completing 34 of 49 passes (64.9%) for a season-high 342 yards and had a quarterback rating of 109.4.
“In the second half, it’s not just me,” Roethlisberger said. “(Fichtner) is telling me stuff in my ear, we are talking on the sidelines. So he should get as much — if not more; in my opinion more — credit than anyone else for the second-half performance, because he’s the one that’s really kind of giving us the insight and the direction and keeping it moving.”
You wouldn't expect Roethlisberger to throw Fichtner under the bus and not give his offensive coordinator any credit for the second-half comeback. As Roethlisberger stated, it's a mutual effort, but I'm sure fans and people in the media will question Fichtner's play-calling abilities due to how much the offense has struggled recently up until Roethlisberger's three touchdown passes in the second half to defeat the Colts when it was the franchise quarterback calling the plays.
“What I see in Coach Randy’s growth is just understanding what our strengths and weaknesses are,” Roethlisberger said. “Really, it boils down to us needing to go make the plays — not the play calling."